RATING: 4 CHET BAKERS
Ever since Hidden Beach landed on the scene with their Unwrapped series there have been many that have tried to duplicate their success, and failed. Whether it's the "Streetwize" albums or whatever, there is only one Unwrapped.
Over the past week I've been reviewing all the previous releases, and it's been leading up to this moment. I finally got my hands on Unwrapped Volume 7 last night, and have been listening to it almost non-stop.
Over the last several months I had heard rumors about a seventh release, but didn't know anything about it such as track listing or anything. Then one day I found out a friend of mine, Farnell Newton, was going to be featured on two songs, so that made the anticipation even greater.
I didn't know the tracklisting of this, but knew I was gonna buy it day one, so I just figured if it was more of the last two albums, I'd still get it, still enjoy it, even if it wasn't on the level of their first four.
Then the sampler was released by Hidden Beach and I got to hear snippets from the entire tracklist, and WOW! If ever there was a more apt title, I haven't seen it.
Hidden Beach Unwrapped volume 7: Back to Basics.
You're not kidding. The tracklisting reads like a who's who of classic hip hop: Pete Rock & CL Smooth (T.R.O.Y.) , De La Soul (Stakes is High) , Queen Latifah (U.N.I.T.Y.) , Wu Tang Clan (C.R.E.A.M.), Nas & Lauryn Hill (If I Ruled the World) and even some Kanye West (Flashing Lights).
Produced by JR Hutson, this is truly a shot of adrenaline to the Unwrapped franchise, which I think was seriously needed. As I said before, the last two were solid releases, but it doesn't rise to the level of Volumes 1 through 4 based simply on the quality of hip hop superstars that were on those initial releases.
Now Unwrapped is back and better then ever. In fact, I'd have to list this release as one of their top two or three Unwrapped albums.
And something that I think should be pointed out, is that I think they have found a happy medium between the classic tracks by the likes of Queen Latifah, De La Soul and Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and the newer artists such as Lil Wayne, Ludacris and T-Pain.
The problem I had with Volume 5, I believe, stems from the shock of it being completely one-sided towards the newer era of hip hop and that was a shock to the system I think. With this newest album, they have a nice balance between the old and the new, and neither overshadows the other.
As for the highlights, one I have to mention is "Flashing Lights". When listening to the snippet I was a bit thrown off by the vocalist. For whatever reason when the female singer would say the word "Lights" it sounded off. I can't really explain why, it just didn't sound right. It sounded jarring and pulled me out of the listening experience.
However, when I got the finished product, it was different. There was a different female vocalist, Jessica Lee, and I think it was a much needed change. Jessica's vocals felt more smooth and fitting with the rest of the song which was fantastic.
Paris Nicole Strother's keys on this song were great and I definitely look forward to hearing her on the next iterations of Unwrapped.
Newton was on point on both of his tracks, especially "One More Drink". His trumpet playing was a fantastic addition to an already smoothed out track. I was enjoying this song a lot.
On "Can't Believe It", Newton joins up with Mike Phillips (Sax) and creates a perfect smooth jazz piece that is suitable for those times when you want to kick back and just relax. Close your eyes and throw all your troubles aside for a moment and just listen to two great musicians do their thing.
Other standouts including "If I Ruled The World" featuring Mike Phillips, Josh Dunham, Alex Kramer and Liz Paige, and one of my personal favorites "C.R.E.A.M." featuring Glen Stewart and Alex Kramer tearing it up on the keys and guitar, respectively.
All in all another fantastic release by Hidden Beach. You can't go wrong getting this. Once again, below is the snippets and link to buy the album from the Hidden Beach store.
Hidden Beach Presents Unwrapped Vol. 7 by hiddenbeach